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The Dragoon revolver transformed Samuel Colt's young pistol-making business into one of the most dominating forces in firearm history. The first pistol to come from Samuel Colt's own factory in Hartford, Conn., the Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon evolved from Colt's legendary Walker Revolver, designed by Sam Colt and Texas Ranger Captain Samuel Walker. Only 240 Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoons were produced over a few months in 1847 and 1848. Only a tiny number still exist, making them the most sought-after of all Colt Dragoons by collectors.
This Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon had design improvements over the Walker Model, which to this day remains the largest and heaviest handgun ever produced by Colt. It included many Walker parts, making it a unique hybrid of old and new. Only 240 were produced before the rollover to the First Model Dragoon. The Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon was the link between the Colt Walker and later revolvers, as well as the first model to come from Colt's own factory in Hartford. These traits make the Whitneyville-Hartford a history-making firearm.
Three major-production Dragoon models were produced between 1848 and 1860. The First Model had oval-shaped cylinder notches, no wheel on the rear of the hammer and no pins between the nipples. Colt produced about 7,000 First Models between 1848 and 1850. The Second Model had rectangular cylinder notches and a "wheel" on the hammer. First and Second models both had square-back trigger guards. The company made about 2,550 Second Models in 1850 and 1851. Approximately 10,000 Third Model Dragoons were made from 1851 through 1860, with many variations. All Third-Model Dragoons had a round trigger guard. Records show 8,390 Dragoons were ordered by the U.S. government.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the Dragoon was standard issue for the U.S. Army's Mounted Rifles as a saddle-holster revolver. It was in standard-issue service for only a short while, though Dragoons were used throughout the war in limited numbers by both sides. The Dragoon was a popular side arm of the early American West, until the introduction of the cartridge revolver, due to its hard-hitting power. An interesting Dragoon variation was the Colt 1848 Pocket Pistol, also known as the Baby Dragoon. This relatively compact Dragoon was successfully marketed to participants of the 1850's California Gold Rush.